Friday, January 23, 2009

The Frank Family

I started my current genealogy research in the hope of finding clues as to the origin of my surname, a side of the family largely neglected in prior genealogy research. I started my research by talking to my grandfather, Forrest F. Frank Junior. Forrest was largely raised by his mother and stepfather, and did not keep in contact with much of the Frank family. He did however know his grandparents' names, and that was enough for me to start my research.

Grave of Jacob and Katherine Frank in Hillcrest Cemetary, Fulton, Mo.

The Frank family story starts with Jacob Frank, an immigrant from Hammelburg, Bavaria. Hammelburg is a small town in northern Bavaria on the Saale river, well known in Germany for its wineries and the nearby Rhön nature preserve. In America, Hammelburg is best known as the location of several POW camps during WWII. It is also the setting for the fictional POW camp in the sitcom Hogan's Heroes.

I do not have information about Jacob's parents or his life in Hammelburg. I know that in 1852 he emigrated to the United States, settling in Fulton, Callaway County, Missouri, where a small German community was formed the First Presbyterian Church in the early 1850's. Two years later, the Backers, a large Prussian family of merchants and bakers (Backer means Baker) moved to the area and began attending the same church. It was then that he met Katherine Backer, his future wife. The two were married on July 29, 1857 in Fulton. I will post more about the Backer family in later posts.

Jacob and Katherine started a family during tumultuous times. In the late 1850's tensions between the northern and southern states were rising. These tensions were felt especially in Callaway county. Missouri was a split state, with northern abolitionists settling parts of the state and slave owners from the south settling others. While Missouri was a slave state, it actually had few slave owners. Almost all the slave owners were concentrated in an area called "Little Dixie" along the Missouri River in central Missouri where a large number of families from Virginia and North Carolina had settled between 1820 and 1850. Callaway county lies at the heart of this area.

When war broke out in 1861 and the Missouri government voted to remain in the Union, Callaway county famously tried to secede from the state and proclaim itself the Kingdom of Callaway county. In response to the strong anti-Union sentiment in the area, the state set up several volunteer militia regiments to guard against attacks by Confederate sympathizers. On April 19, 1862, Jacob Frank enlisted with the 9th Calvary Regiment State Militia Volunteers. The Regiment remained for the most part in the central Missouri area, and saw action in a number of small skirmishes against guerrilla Confederate troops and sympathizers seeking to sabotage railroads and roads.

Jacob was one of the rare few soldiers in the Civil War who made it through the war without injury or illness. He was discharged on April 21, 1865 and returned home. However, a few months later he was again summoned to service. Although the war was over, gangs of Confederate sympathizers known as "Bushwackers" still plagued central Missouri. One of the gangs operating in the area eventually became known as the James-Younger gang (Jesse James' gang). Jacob re-enrolled under command of Lt. William H. Thomas in the Callaway County Volunteer Militia on July 5, 1865 and served off and on as needed to protect the countryside from Bushwackers.

After the war Jacob remained in Fulton. He worked for the next few decades in a local coal mine. Eventually as his health began to fail him, he took a less demanding job. On the 1900 census his job title was listed as "Market Gardener." He and Katherine lived on Market St., so it is possible that he worked as a caretaker at a nearby municipal park or garden.

Jacob and Katherine had nine children, 5 girls and 4 boys, all of whom lived to adulthood and married. For the most part their children married the children of other German immigrants, and stayed in Fulton. Their son Charles Henry "Charley" Frank is my g-g-grandfather.

Beulah, Charley, Forrest, Emma, Melvin and Effie Frank.

Charley Frank was born in 1865 in Fulton. He married Emma Weimeyer of Franklin county on 24 Sep 1890. Charley worked for the Backer family's grocery and bakery. He and Emma had four children, Effie, Melvin, Forrest, and Beulah. Effie married Poole Harrison from Mexico, Mo., and moved to the Chicago area, where the couple owned a chain of gas stations. The couple became quite rich but never had children. Melvin followed his father into the family business, eventually becoming co-owner of the Frank & Backer bakery. Melvin married Louise Humbrook, and they had one daughter, Marcella, who married Harry Johnson, and currently lives just north of Kingdom City. Beulah married a distant cousin, Frank Backer, who worked as a car salesman. They had two sons, Homer and Howard Backer. Howard lives in Los Angeles and Homer lives in Florida.

My great-grandfather, Forrest Sr. was born on October 27, 1896. He married Lela Harrison around 1918. They had one child, my grandfather, Forrest Jr. For the next few years, Forrest Sr. worked as a laundry truck driver in Fulton. He and Lela divorced around 1930, and Forrest Sr. moved to northern Indiana, where he managed a gas station owned by his brother-in-law Poole Harrison. Around 1945 he moved back to Fulton where he worked as a salesman at a department store. He died in 1953 at his son's house in St. Ann, Missouri. His death certificate lists the cause of death as stomach cancer.

The Frank family is a small family, with few living descendants today. Unlike the farmer families common on other branches of my family, who often had 10+ children, the Franks were city dwellers and often had two working spouses and little time for children. My research indicates that the only living descendants with the Frank last name are my grandfather and his family, of which only myself and my cousin James might still carry on the family name.

Below are documents related to the Frank family, including the military service record of Jacob Frank, census data sheets, and death certificates for my direct ancestors. I have also created a descendants chart that traces all the generations descended from Jacob Frank. It contains much more detailed information on the family.

Descendants of Jacob Frank
-- A 'register report' style list of all the Frank relatives I have found so far.

Jacob & Katherine:
Charley & Emma:
Forrest Sr.:


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Victoria Frank and I am looking for my family roots, which are of German descent.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah my email is if you would like to talk about the Frank Family.

Unknown said...

My name is Adam Frank. I am trying to trace my Frank family roots, Im also interested to know if I am descendant of Jakob Frank my email is The Frank part of my family live in New York and Florida. We are of German and Polish descent. Any help would be appreciatedOnedAMe 33863

Unknown said...

HI my name is Gina Frank my family decends from germany/polland and my great grand parents decend from there and spain my email is or you can get me on facebook gina frank please can some one help me too find my family

Unknown said...

I don't think a Frank family from Poland is related to mine directly, but I'd be happy to help find them. I'll send you an email

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